Cognitive cognitive development, each one provides insight into the

Cognitive
development is “the study of childhood neurological and psychological
development that is assessed by on the level of conception, perception,
information processing, and language.” (1) Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, B.F. Skinner
and Lev Vygotsky are all significant characters in how we understand and aid in
one’s cognitive development. While each gentleman offers a different theory on cognitive
development, each one provides insight into the understanding of the child
development.

Jean Piaget believed
that all “people passed in a fixed sequence through a series of universal stages
of cognitive development.” (1) Each stage, comprised of its own
characteristics, directs and determines how information from the world is
looked at and handled by each person at each stage of their development. Piaget’s
Cognitive Theory is made up of schemas, four stages of development (Sensorimotor,
Preoperational, Concrete Operational and Formal Operational) and assimilation
& accommodation. As people deal with different schemas through their
particular stages of development, Piaget theorizes that children will either
assimilate (use their current ways of thinking to handle new situations) or accommodate
(change their previous ways of thinking to handle new situations). Erik Erikson
focused on psychosocial development and believed that both “society and culture
challenge and shape us.” (1) Erikson argued that people’s experiences contribute
to psychosocial development at each stage of life and any failure to handle new
experiences well will cause damage to their development. Erikson’s stages of
psychosocial development are broken into eight stages that go well into late
adulthood. Erikson’s stages of development are Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs.
Shame & Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs.
Role Diffusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation and
Ego-integrity vs. Despair.

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Unlike Piaget
and Erikson, B.F. Skinner and Lev Vygotsky did not reduce their theories on
cognitive development to stages. Skinner focused on operant conditioning, “a
form of learning in which a voluntary response is strengthened or weakened by
its association with positive or negative consequences.” (1) Skinner believed
that individuals learn to act calculatingly in order to bring about desired results.
Skinner’s theory focused on Neutral
Operants (responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the
probability of a behavior being repeated), Reinforces (Responses from the environment
that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be
either positive or negative.) and Punishers (Responses from the environment
that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens
behavior.). (1) Vygotsky
believed it was impossible to understand one’s development without
understanding the culture in which they were developed. Vygotsky argued, “learning is a necessary and
universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized,
specifically human psychological function” (1978, p. 90).  In other words, social learning tends to
precede (i.e., come before) development and no single principle or theory is
responsible for development and that if we want to understand someone then we
must understand the social and cultural context in which they were raised.

Even though
each contributor had his on view they sometimes mirrored each other as much as
they differed. For instance, Vygotsky and Piaget both believed that educators
were great facilitators in one’s development but not directors of it. However,
Vygotsky and Piaget also differed on many things as well. For example, Vygotsky
believed one’s sociocultural context had strong emphasis on their development
while Piaget believed it had little impact on one’s development. Also, where
Piaget was set on his four stages of cognitive development, Vygotsky believed
that no one stage can define a person. Like Piaget, Erikson also believed that
the development of a person occurred in stages and that cognitive influences
impacted young children the most. Unlike Piaget, Erikson’s stage extends one’s
life in eight stages where Piaget mostly focuses on birth
to adolescence. For instance, Erikson’s first stage ends at age one while
Piaget’s ends at age two. Also, Piaget considers adolescences to be rational
thinkers capable of making sound decisions around age twelve where Erikson
believes teens at this stage are more focused on making their own decisions and
discovering who they are. Skinner, on the other hand, was similar to Vygotsky
because they both believed that a person’s environment had a large part in
their development. While Vygotsky applied this to a contextual perspective,
Skinner applied this using operant conditioning involving reinforcements.

Considering
each theorist’s belief, the issue of cognitive development in early childhood would
be handled differently by each. Piaget would have been supportive of exposing
children to different things in their younger years as he believed children
matured as they gained knowledge during each stage of their development.
Erikson would have focused on involving the children in social settings that
not only help shape them but challenge them as well. Skinner most likely would
have approached cognitive development in early childhood by presenting children
with positive and negative reinforcements for every situation they may be put
it in order to condition them properly. Lastly, one can assume Vygotsky would
have approached the issue by observing children in their natural environment
and learning how they communicate with others as it impacts their learning and
communication.